Carmelo Anthony sat in front of reporters at Madison Square Garden on May 20, two days after the Indiana Pacers knocked the New York Knicks out of the NBA Playoffs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Prior to this season, the Knicks proclaimed this season would be ‘championship or bust’, but Anthony remained unwaveringly positive despite the early exit. “I don’t think we underachieved,” Anthony said as quoted by ESPN. “We are only going to get better.”
Anthony’s statements contrasted starkly with those of his teammate, Iman Shumpert. Moments earlier, the shooting guard sat in the same spot that Anthony did, and he was not as optimistic. “I think we failed,” Shumpert said. “We know we were supposed to go farther than we did … We have to hold each other accountable.”
When asked about Shumpert’s remarks, Anthony offered a different opinion.
“It’s easier to say that at this point,” said Anthony, as a grin spread across his face. “When we are sitting back from the outside looking in.” A similar smirk typically forms on Anthony’s face when things don’t go his way on the court.
But should Anthony be laughing? Especially after losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals? In 11 NBA seasons, he’s never made past it the second round of the playoffs. His teams have been eliminated in the first round eight times. Still, he is considered one of the most valuable players in the league.
Sure, the small forward is one of the most prolific scorers in the game — he’s averaged 25.0 points per game over his career, and he won this year’ scoring title after averaging 28.7 points per game. But does Anthony have what it takes to lead an NBA franchise to a championship?
He turned 29 on May 29. He is still in his prime, and will likely deliver several more years of productive basketball, but there hardly appears to be any room for the Knicks in the conference. The Miami Heat have made it to the NBA finals in each of the past three years, the Pacers have emerged as perennial contenders, and Derrick Rose is set to return to the Chicago Bulls next season.
But if Anthony hopes to bring a championship to his hometown club, he will need to change his mentality. Securing nearly 30 points and seven rebounds per night isn’t enough — Anthony needs to lead.
He can’t be satisfied with a second-round exit, and needs to hold his teammates accountable. He needs to instill a sense of urgency in his squad. They can’t be content with just making it to the conference semifinals. They should expect to be competing for a championship.
Sure, he can smile once in awhile on the court, but leading a team to the NBA Finals is no laughing matter — just ask Lebron James.